Album review: Utada - This is the one

Album review: Utada - This is the one | Random J Pop

My future wife decided to record another English language album. I honestly didn't think she'd bother given the commercial failure of Exodus. But she has more in her for another English language album and Def Jam is up for keeping her on the roster to put it out. So who are us Hikki fans to argue!?

Hikaru's English albums give her a musical outlet to do all that stuff that she feels she's unable to do for her Japanese albums. Whilst Exodus was a drastic departure for Hikaru in terms of...well, everything - This is the one features a little more of what we've had from Hikaru's Japanese releases. But we also get some surprises too, in the form of full on club bangers. "On and on" is a pleasant surprise. Hikaru works a style she hasn't touched since her second Japanese album Distance - taking what could've been a run of the mill club record and adding twists via a varied vocal performance which consists of yodelling. She also sprinkles some cool off-beat, but uniquely her lyrics across the song which include 'Honey's if you're gay, burn it up, like a gay parade'. I love how she took a line like that and threw it in a song like it's nothing, which it is. It's nothing. But many other US artists would be wary of even considering using such a line in one of their songs. The best way to describe "One and one" would be Heart station's "Celebrate" with more of am urban twist. "Dirty desire" sees Hikaru let the freak all the way out, with lyrics which include "Working a 9 to 5, I'm thinking 6 and 9's" and "I don't want just a bite, I want the full size". Hikaru obviously needs a man back in her life, and I'm offering myself to her. I have been for almost 10 years! Hikaru's voice is incredibly sexy and you don't realise how much so until she speaks in English. I damn near touched myself when I heard "I know you've thought about it...". The beat is hot, with producer Tricky Stewart working the same horrid-but-gotta-love-em-synth lines that ran obnoxiously through his biggest production to date, Rihanna's "Umbrella" and also the single that never was, "Breakin' dishes". Def Jam either need to make this a single or issue this to clubs as a buzz track. It'd go down well.

The other uptempos aren't quite as good though. "Automatic part II" doesn't hold a candle to the original or the 'Part I' which featured on Hikaru's record breaking debut album First love. The song is awful. It sounds like a fan remixed the theme song to Moesha, badly. Hikaru should've kept the beat the same as the original and just re-worked the lyrics into English. "Poppin'" sounds like a song from a Nickelodeon detective show. Not cool at all. Two of the absolute worst songs on the album.

Hikaru treads more familiar territory with all of the Stargate productions. "Come back to me" had me worried, because it saw Hikaru jumping on a bandwagon and delivering an anybody song which borders on mediocre. But thankfully the other Stargate productions are far more unique and capture more of Hikaru Utada's essence, whilst giving her that pop accessibility she was going for. "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" sounds like something you'd expect to find on one of Hikaru's Japanese releases. A brilliantly quirky song. "Apple & cinnamon" is aptly, short 'n' sweet. A great song that I've already played to death. It'd do well as a single. "This one (Crying like a child)" isn't a song that grabbed me at first, but soon held me a choke hold and wouldn't let go after repeated listens. A beautiful song about a complicated love, strewn with a heart felt vocal, guitars and 808s to ground it. Another potential single. I was actually surprised to find that Stargate produced it, as it sounds like it was written by The Dream and produced by Tricky - as the chorus is very "Umbrella" like. "Me muero" has Stargate utilising the drum sequences that has featured in many a Stargate production from "Irreplaceable" onward. I've been on a one man mission to have the drum pattern banned, because it truly has been overused. At the very least, every other aspect of "Me muero" is far removed from "Irreplaceable", "Go on girl", "With you" and all the other re-hashes Stargate are responsible for. The song takes on a 60s lounge feel and shouldn't work so well, but it does. Hikaru sells the song with charm and quirk in spades, and some cool ad-libs towards the end which see her tapping into a tone and vibe that I never knew she had in her. Not my favourite song on the album, and the lyrics are a bit too weird at times, even for her. But it's a song that I do think is nice.

Album review: Utada - This is the one | Random J Pop

The production on This is the one is incredibly polished, something that Exodus's wasn't, with the exception of the Timbaland productions. Whilst the Tricky Stewart productions are well produced, they pale in comparison to the Stargate contributions. Tricky's style doesn't always run in line with what you'd expect from Hikaru, and not always in a good way. "Taking my money back" sounds like a left over Mariah Carey song. Hikaru never should've gone with it, because the sound just doesn't suit her and she sounds as though she's struggling to sing on beat. I was sceptical initially of Stargate handling so much of the album, but I'm now wishing they'd done more of it. Their productions are definitely the highlights. The brilliant thing about the Stargate productions is that not only do they they sound very much like Hikaru Utada songs, but lyrically they're incredibly candid, if a little simple; "Apple & cinnamon" and "This one (Crying like a child)" in particular. Vocally Hikaru sounds nice and not like a warbling child as she did on the majority of Exodus. The harmonies are tight and well layered and her ad-libs are nice. Ad-libbing isn't something Hikaru does often when singing in Japanese, so it's nice to hear her go there with them on this album.

Whilst This is the one isn't as refined as some of her Japanese releases, it at least showcases her to Western audiences in a much more commercial light than Exodus did, which makes Hikaru's music more approachable. But this comes at the expense of a diluted form of Hikaru Utada to that of what core fans of her Japanese releases have enjoyed for years. And for this reason, This is the one comes up short. The songs here which are good, are really good. But the album as a whole is pretty lacklustre. It's not bad. But it's not great either. But it does feature some great songs.

RATING: 6 / 10

Album highlights:
■ On and on
■ Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI ★ J's fave
■ Apple & cinnamon
■ This one (Crying like a child)
■ Dirty desire
■ Come back to me
■ Me muero

Comments

  1. I will personally hunt down LA Reid if they do not release Apple And Cinnamon as a single. They really should have gone with it as the lead single and just scrapped Come Back To Me altogether.

    Should've been: A&C > Dirty Desire > On And On

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  2. Sounds awesome, I can't wait to hear the full thing.

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  3. Yay! Your review is finally here! Thanks for the interesting read.

    Whilst I don't agree with everything you said on the review, I pretty much agree with the 'album highlights' part.

    I think Hikaru should release an English double A-side next; yes there's only 10 tracks but 2 tracks are better to put across her artistic talents than a single song.

    Thanks once more for your LJ comments!

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  4. Alright, what we've all been waiting for :) I think the album is strong musically but lyrically not as much. My favorites are Me muero and One. I think they're the best written songs. While the music to A & C is great the lyrics are too repetitive. It just doesn't sound like the song is finished. Taking my Money Back, why in the hell did they even allow that on the disc. I'm not thrilled with Dirty Desire either. Anyway I think it's a pretty good effort and with real promotion this time. I just wish her live performances had been better.

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  5. Glad you gave Utada a fair score.

    My favourites were On and on
    ■ Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI
    ■ Apple & Cinnamon
    ■ Taking My Money Back
    ■ Dirty Desire
    ■ Come Back to me

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